Ban the Box Ordinance- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is Rochester’s Ban the Box Ordinance?

  • Ban the Box, officially Chapter 63, Article II of the City of Rochester Municipal Code, was enacted on May 22, 2014 by Ordinance 2014-155. The law prohibits employers from inquiring about criminal convictions of job applicants on a job application form or during the initial application process and prior to the end of the first interview.

What are the law’s restrictions on the use of criminal record histories?

  • Ban the Box prohibits potential employers from:
    • Making any inquiry regarding a job applicant’s prior criminal conviction on any initial employment application or prior to the end of the initial application process. The “application process” shall be deemed to begin when the applicant inquires about the employment sought and shall end when an employer has conducted an initial employment interview or made a conditional offer of employment.
    • If an employer does not conduct an interview, that employer must inform the applicant whether a criminal background check will be conducted before employment is to begin. 

What is the intended purpose of Ban the Box?

  • Ban the Box is intended to encourage the hiring of qualified people who are ex‐offenders by ensuring that employers screen applicants based on their work qualifications, before any consideration of their prior criminal history. The Ordinance also aims to reduce recidivism through the employment of qualified ex-offenders.

When did Ban the Box go into effect?

  • November 18, 2014.

Which employers are subject to Ban the Box?

  • The City of Rochester, vendors who contract with the City, and employers who have employees in any position for which the primary place of work is in the City and temporary, job placement, referral, or other employment agencies participating in hiring for such positions.

Which employers are exempt from the law?

  • Employers with fewer than four employees.
  • Any employer hiring for licensed trades or professions, including positions such as interns and apprentices for such licensed positions, may make an inquiry of applicants about prior criminal convictions if such inquiry is required by a licensing authority or by New York State or Federal Law.
  • Any employer hiring for positions where certain convictions are a bar to employment in that position under New York State or Federal Law.

Are there any other exemptions from the law?

  • The prohibitions of the law do not apply to applicants for positions in the City Police Department or the Fire Department, or to any other employer hiring for “police officer” and “peace officer” positions, as defined by Criminal Procedure Law §1.20 or §2.10. The prohibitions of the law do not apply if the inquiry about criminal convictions is specifically authorized by any other applicable law.

Does this law prohibit employers from conducting criminal background checks before hiring a person?

  • No. The law does not prohibit an employer from conducting a background check after the initial application process has been conducted, including any initial interview.

May an employer ask about criminal convictions at the end of the initial interview?

  • Yes. Once the employer has conducted a good faith interview, this law does not prohibit asking about criminal convictions at that point, or a later stage in the hiring process.

Are there other laws that employers must comply with?

  • Yes, employers must also comply with applicable provisions of Article 23-A of the New York State Corrections Law, the New York State Human Rights Law (Executive Law Section 296) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act 15 USC Section 1681 et seq. Employers should be aware that New York State law prohibits discrimination in employment based on prior criminal convictions, with certain exceptions.

How is the law enforced?

  • Any person aggrieved by a violation of this law can bring a civil lawsuit against the employer.
  • The City’s Corporation Counsel also has the authority commence a lawsuit.
  • Our goal is to encourage voluntary adoption of employer policies that comply with this law.

For further information, contact:

Department of Law  
City of Rochester
30 Church St.
Rochester NY 14614